LOCUST, N.C. — A driver has died weeks after he and a Locust police officer exchanged gunfire during an attempted traffic stop in Locust, police said.
The incident happened on May 31 at around 8:40 p.m. on Whispering Hills Drive at Meadowcreek Village Drive, on the north side of the town of Locust. The neighborhood is just off of Highway 200 in Stanly County.
Authorities said a Locust police officer tried to pull over Michael Angelo Gales, 37, after witnessing several traffic violations including speeding, but Gales refused to stop and drove into the neighborhood.
After Gales got out of his car, police said he and the officer exchanged gunfire.
In a news release, police said that Gales was shot and flown to a hospital in Charlotte. Initially, he was in critical condition, but on Wednesday evening, the Locust chief of police confirmed he had died at about 7:30 that morning.
Sources told Channel 9′s Glenn Counts that the officer was not hurt but was taken to the hospital as a precaution.
Counts was at the scene on May 31 and saw the car involved. There were still several police cars at the scene.
Neighbors who say they saw what happened said the driver eventually stopped in front of his own home and started shoving a police officer. They say the officer used a Taser on the man, who then pulled out a gun from his car and started firing.
Neighbors say the officer shot back, seriously hurting Gales. They shared a photo with Channel 9 that shows the officers with their guns drawn.
New video also shows first responders trying to save Gales before flying him to the hospital. It also shows the street littered with shell casings.
Counts also saw a handgun in the roadway. It is not known who the gun belonged to.
Police initially said Gales would face charges related to the incident.
Residents awakened by bullets flying through their quiet neighborhood
Just hours after the shooting, neighbors like Laura Johnson were still piecing together what happened. “I heard what sounded like six gunshots,” she said. “At first, I thought it was fireworks.”
Neighbors told Reporter Anthony Kustura that bullets came flying into their homes. “I noticed we actually had two shots come in through,” said neighbor Austin Miller.
Miller said one bullet even hit the mattress where his 4-year-old son was sleeping.
“So that actually was about six inches from him, it went through the wall, and then actually went through his mattress and under him,” he said.
In all, neighbors said at least three homes and one truck were hit in the gunfire. Miller said he’s using the experience as a teaching moment for this three young sons.
“This could’ve been really bad but it wasn’t, so you just need to be thankful,” he said.
On the night of the shooting, neighbors told Counts that they are still having a hard time believing that something so violent could happen in their community.
Travis Fairfax said part of it happened in front of his home.
“So, we were sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner and I heard about six or eight rounds go off from my living room. I looked at the window and then saw the officer shoot about two more rounds.”
Neighbor Vic Johnson painted a portrait of Gales as a family man.
“He’d come down and bring the dogs. And we’d hang out and talk in the front yard. The kids would ride the bikes. He’d ride the bikes. It was just a normal thing,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he couldn’t believe his friend was involved in a situation like this. He said around 18 months ago, Gales hit a rough patch in his personal life that changed him.
“Only knowing Mike how I knew him, it’s very shocking,” Johnson said. “Look, people make mistakes, I mean this might be a big one, but it still might just be a mistake and nobody should die over that. I hope he survives for his family and for himself.”
Per standard protocol, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the use of force, police said. Per standard protocol, the officer involved was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the SBI’s investigation.
No other details have been released.
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